Pilanesberg Safari

Pilanesberg National Park

North-West Province, South Africa

I planned a Safari trip to the Pilanesberg game park in the North-West Province of South Africa with my Dad. I am getting married in a few weeks time, so I thought it would be nice to spend some quality time in the bush with just me and the balie.

I have been to Pilanesberg 6 times so far. Pilanesberg is a great for even one night away from town, it is less than a 2-hour drive from city to campsite and a definite add to your Travel South Africa bucket list. The complex offers camping sites (Electrified and non-Electrified), self-catering Chalets and Safari tented camps. I highly recommend the safari tented camps. There are ablution blocks scattered across the camp and the on-site shop offers wood, sweets, ice, alcohol, ice creams, food items and many other essentials you may need for your stay. There is a pool, putt-putt and a restaurant for more entertainment.  We opted for a non-electrified site. My dad and I prefer the simpler and more earthy experiences where you need to work a bit for your reward. So we checked in, (R300,00 per night for a campsite) and headed to our site. We setup camp and cracked our first cold beer of the trip. WINNING!


We left Johannesburg on Friday afternoon at 12:00, stopped by Pick n Pay and the bottle store to collect a few goods for the trip.

IMPORTANT: Beers and game drives are essential. SO essential, that you shouldn’t even have to add ‘’BEERS’’ to your shopping list, it is already detailed in to the heading.

It was now 16:00 on a Friday afternoon and we headed on our first drive out into the park in search of the Big 5. R80,00 per person and R40,00 per car. You need to pay this each time you go into the Game Park. Driving in, I put on my adventure cap, beers in hand my dad and I were automatically in relax mode. That sensational silencing sound of the bush is incredible. Slowly we drove on the gravel roads, spotting birds and chatting about random shit. I had been to Pilanesberg a few times already and I had mentioned to my dad, ‘‘on this trip I would love to see a Leopard, a hippo out of the water and a secretary bird’’. I have never seen a leopard before and previously I had seen a Kori Bustard (Africa’s largest flying bird and intimidating as hell, it is HUGE).

The park was full as it was a long weekend in SA. We turned a bend, and we were looking down at a valley of 20 cars on the road. On the opposite side of the valley about 200m from our sight, IMMEDIATELY, BANG! Underneath a tree of shade, protected from the afternoons, winter sun – A FREAAKING LEOPARD! Straight away, its striking features shout I AM A MIGHTY CAT! Relaxed shoulders, a strong jawline and pointy ears. We turned off the car, and enjoyed a beer whilst examining the cats lazy movements about his space. It was an incredible experience for me. I may have not seen the Leopard and its spots up close, but this offered a different kind of viewing experience where we could enjoy the silhouette of a rare sighting from a distance.

The main park gate closes at 18:00, and it is important for you to try be out and in your camp by then. We were stuck in a traffic jam. A large herd of elephants (20 or so), refused to move off the road. We got back to camp at 18:40, lit the fire (ALWAYS USE WOOD FOR A FIRE IN THE BUSH), and it was time to relax around the fire for the evening. My Dad nailed the menu for the weekend. We had a proper shisa nyama. A hot fire, chuck and brisket, garlic bread and curried beans. Chuck and Brisket are the most flavoursome cuts of red meat but also very chewy. It is important to eat it as soon as it comes off the fire, but it is just as good the next morning. I made the curried beans on the skottel and we chilled underneath a starlit sky out in the wild over a few beers and a great meal. It was perfect! We followed up with a lekker hot shower and called it a night. Early bird catches the worm out here!


Choose from a campsite beneath the trees, or a more organized Safari Tented Camp equipped with a fridge and electricity

AND WE CAUGHT THE WORM! The gates opened at 06:30 and we got there at 06:45. Brewed ourselves a flask of hot coffee accompanied with rusks and we were ready to mission again. I decided to go a route I had never been before and it really paid off. We found a hippo dam. Medium-sized water hole with a herd of hippos (15). A trio of blacksmith lapwings arguing which is just not right for a Sunday morning, sort your shit out.  Hippos grunting and moving about regularly in the dam. Added another first to my birding library – a TRIPLE BANDED PLOVER, that was milling about alone on the shoreline. We parked off, enjoyed some coffee and spent a good 40-minutes with the herd of hippos. Patience paid off! One hell of an animal a hippopotamus is. Low and behold, a mom and her calf stroll out of the dam to enjoy some sunshine outside of the waters. We lazed about, they lazed about. It was great! We decided to move on and see what else we could find.

We continued on the unkown gravel path.In my TATA INDICA and the roads can get quite rough. My TATA nailed it! After short drive, we were stopped by a couple that said they had spotted a Lion just a bit further down in the middle of a bushy enclosure. We continued, locked onto the binoculars and spotted the male lion sitting proudly, basking in the morning sun. I had never seen a Lion at Pilanesberg so that was pretty epic.

We continued for the next few hours, spotting new birds, naming 5 different type of buck. My dad is quite good with his antelope and birding knowledge. We saw a rooi hartbeest, Kudu, many impala, Waterbuck and a steenbok. We also saw a pair of jackals, a funny sighting, they seem so occupied all the time and on a mission to deliver post. I really love the animals of this beautiful land.


Our next plan was to find the fish eagle camp site, which is located upon a mountain with a panoramic view of the Mankwe Dam. A map can be purchased at the gate but we preferred to back our gut on this trip. It is called Fish Eagle Camp because you are likely to see and hear fish eagles (my favourite bird), which we did. If you take your binoculars out and scan across the shorleines of Mankwe Dam you will spot so MANY different type of wildlife. Wildebeest, Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra, Crocodile, birdlife, elephants, bucks and so much more. It is a great spot to stop off for some much needed chow.

LESS IS MORE! We carried a bag of wood, 4 beers, boerewors, rolls, tomato sauce and a lighter to our picnic spot at Fish Eagle Camp. We braai’d with our hands and had the best boerie rolls I have ever had with an incredible view of a small plain in South Africa. With full stomachs, we moved on back to the campsite to pack up and return home with great memories and some good bonding time together.

A TRADITION that Cait and I started on our last journey is to pack up all your gear, park the car at reception and jump in the pool before getting into the car to drive home. It was SO COLD! But, I was refreshed and clean and ready to drive back home to Cait and my mom who were watching movies at our place.

I had such a  great time again at The Pilanesberg Game Reserve. This is undoubtedly one of my most favourite quick getaways, and even a 24-hour shift is sooooo worth it. Unable to find a buffalo or a secretary bird, we saw 4 out of the Big 5. It has been said that you should always leave something to come back to, and that includes a draught at the bar next time Dad 😉


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